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Our View: Board members should have full access to records

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opinion River Falls,Wisconsin 54022 http://www.hudsonstarobserver.com/sites/all/themes/hudsonstarobserver_theme/images/social_default_image.png
Hudson Star Observer
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Our View: Board members should have full access to records
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

There is a letter to the editor in this week's Star-Observer from School Board member Sandy Gehrke, upset about the district's request that she pay $428.54 for copies of paperwork.

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The records are related to a contract with Hoffman Engineering for "pre-referendum" architectural services regarding "secondary space solutions."

Charging a fee to school board members for information makes us uncomfortable.

Gehrke might be viewed by some as a maverick on the board, but she was the choice of the voters in the 2012 school board election and should be entitled to any and all information.

In a letter to Gehrke, the district said she sought 470 pages of records. They said she could have the information if she paid the $428.54, or she could come into the office and essentially pay $311.04 plus the cost of copying the pages she wants.

What it all boils down to is 25 cents per page, plus $311.04 for administrative and secretarial expenses.

Many government agencies now charge the general public and the media for the retrieval of documents because it does take time and money for people to locate records and make copies. The district implemented the policy a number of years ago when some members of the public were asking for massive amounts of records.

That's fine, but we are uncomfortable with treating a member of the Board of Education with the same criteria.

Gehrke, of course, has been an outspoken opponent of many of the district's actions but we assume the district would treat all board members the same. By putting this burden on board members -- in this case Gehrke -- it has the appearance of retribution against an "uncooperative" board member, and hints that perhaps Gehrke is on to something with which the district is uncomfortable.

As we know in politics -- whether local, state or national -- public perception can make or break a deal.

Even though we are not crazy about it, we would accept some sort of fee for records requests from the general public. We believe however, that board members be exempt. They are elected to run the business of the district and should have carte blanche to all information.

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